The population of ancient Kerala is an assortment of different groups of Dravidian stock. The dominant view is that the present day hill tribes, the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, might have been the main groups of people who inhabited this region from times of yore.
The ancient Dravidian kingdoms of South India (Chera, Chola and Pandya) as well as their people were held together by intimate bonds of blood, language and literature and that was the force which promoted a sort of cultural homogeneity in South India inspite of occasional intrigues, feuds and wars that caused not infrequent disharmony.
The end of the Perumal Empire marks a turning point in the history of Kerala. From that period onwards, the people began to draw apart and those on this side of the Ghats began to build up their own customs and ways of life developing their own distinct culture in the long run. The next landmark was the Aryan invasion. The warp of the Dravidian social structure gradually began to mingle with the weft of the Aryan cultural pattern. The Aryan immigrants, known locally as Namboodiri Brahmins, might have come in successive waves. Against the backdrop of Aryan invasion, the Parasurama legend about Kerala’s origin, becomes meaningful
The new social evolution brought about by the influence of the oncoming Aryans was distinguished by three important features; private property in land, caste system and Aryan culture. The Aryan culture, which was first confined to the Namboodiris, began to percolate to those non-Aryans who had close contact with them in social life and slowly but steadily through them to those in the lower strata. Brahminical Hinduism, with its religious ritual and ceremony, its beliefs and practices, its traditions and mythology, its language and literature, began to have its impact on the society.
Aryan systems of medicine, astrology, art and architecture also were introduced. The Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas became the scripture. Aryan heroes became popular, their idols began to be installed in temples side by side with the deities of the early settlers. Sanskrit became the court language and coming alive to its influence, the native tongue, which was of Dravidian origin, began gradually to form itself into Malayalam, the language of Kerala. Sanskrit has had a tremendous unifying influence in India, shaping and enriching almost all the languages in the country. Malayalam language has assimilated and appropriated Sanskrit sounds, words and idioms in a remarkably large measure.
Since persuasive sociological trends do not follow the principle of one-way traffic, the Aryan immigrants who settled in Kerala had themselves to undergo radical changes in their ways of life, habits, customs and manners. This process of transformation paved the way for a desirable fusion of the two streams of culture; the Aryan and the Dravidian. Out of this synthesis evolved Kerala culture as it is today. Cut off, as it is from the rest of India, Kerala has a culture with certain distinct characteristics. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity have contributed their significant share in enriching the cultural wealth of Kerala.